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May 03, 2020 Sunday 11:34:33 AM IST

Getting Prepared for Virtual Learning in Schools and Colleges

Image by Gerd Altman for Pixabay.com

Teaching routines are set to change with the three- week lockdown to contain the spread of the pandemic Covid-19. Universities and schools across the world are busy chalking out plans to move classes online. In the Indian scenario, all the schools and colleges may not have the infrastructure facilities to implement such virtual learning.  
Some of the private schools and colleges had the fund to equip all their classrooms with Intelligent display units with internet access.  Whereas majority of the schools and colleges in the government, unaided, aided and private sections have one or at the maximum two integrated display units with internet access to cater to the needs of their student community. 
The worst part is, the majority of their students don’t have access to smart devices at home.  This makes virtual learning almost impossible for this section of the society.  The initiative of MHRD and Govt. of India to procure laptop /tablet carts for selected school students in the government sector is commendable. If it is extended to all the schools in the government and unaided sections with internet connection   then the entire student community can envision learning from home during testing times like this. 
Hardware and Software
Presently digital learning resources (software) exist in many forms and are spread across many locations, online and offline. The access to the digital learning resources store hosted on the content platforms is over the Internet.  The content delivery systems including Open Online Course platforms for content dissemination will be required for teachers to effectively collate the necessary content required for the class or an individual student.
 The NCERT has the following platforms for digital learning:
●DIKSHA portal and its mobile app - The Digital Infrastructure for knowledge Sharing to access e-Contents and e-Books of NCERT.
●SWAYAM portal and mobile app - This is NCERET’s free online self-paced courses for school students of classes 11-12.
●NROER - An Open Educational Repository to access numerous e-resources for free.
●E-Pathshala website and mobile app - To access e-books( classes 1 to 12)of NCERT for free in various languages. 
●SWAYAM Prabha channel - To watch educational videos 
In the private sector the teachers have prepared their own digital content and are using the same for online lessons.  If they could host it on cloud and share the link with the teacher community, then there will be no dearth of online resources.  Further if the teacher community can collaborate and identify the hard spots and divide these topics among themselves then digital content will be available at least for the hard spots.  The digital content prepared by the teacher community meeting certain standards, will be uploaded by NROER and the teacher gets credit points for the same. 
Hardware and Networking 
The online delivery devices include desktop/laptop, notepads, projectors, integrated visual display units to facilitate interactive teaching in the classrooms. Also, network cables should be connected to the intelligent Visual Display Units (VDU) in the classroom and necessary network software also to be installed along with a good Antivirus.
Total Close Down
The teachers have to resort to their own laptops/desktops/ smartphones. They need to have good Internet connectivity too.  The webinars can be conducted for the entire class using Cisco WebEx, RingCentral, Zoom Video Communications, Google Meet among others. The assignments can be shared on Google classroom, blogs and other platforms. 
The present scenario has made it mandatory for the teachers from any subject background to become proficient in the use of online tools to deliver the lessons to their students. The ICT teachers will play a crucial role in orienting the teachers from other disciplines in the use of digital content in delivery of lessons, administering assessments to students and capturing the assessment data through online tools.
YouTube and Others 
NROER is a comprehensive digital repository for Open Educational Resources (OER). It also provides opportunities for users to access and create educational resources. In another year, NROER will have video tutors or vodcasts ready for all the subjects from classes 1 to 12. As of now teachers will be hosting their eContent on their personal blogs and share the link with the college or school website. Similarly, they will be hosting their video tutors or vodcasts on their personal YouTube channel and share the links with the school/college website.  Alternatively, the school/colleges can store in their cloud storage the eContent developed by the teachers and share the link on their website in a structured way.
Evaluation and Parents
Online assessment engines / tools facilitate standardized measurement of learning levels. These tools are used for assessment of student performance after the online lessons.  Student assessments are useful to identify the key gaps in the student learning and provide feedback with respect to the requirement of remedial classes.  The parents can monitor the online assessments taken up by the students to prevent any foul play and enable further improvement in the quality of learning.

Suma Paul K

Suma Paul holds an MSc degree in IT and B.Ed degree with vast experience in teaching computer science in schools.  She won the CBSE Teachers Award 2017-18, The National ICT Award for School Teachers 2017 and Global Teacher Accreditation 2013.

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